Last week, 10K Chief Customer Officer Mike Martin sat down with Tracie Pruden, 10K customer, and the Chief Information Officer at Advanced Turf Solutions. Advanced Turf Solutions is primarily a distributor for the green industries — ie. anyone that’s growing and maintaining real grass, from golf courses, sports fields, and schools, to municipalities and lawn care operators. They also have a retail arm that is a walk-in business with about 25 locations where homeowners can buy their products.
Given the many different arms of the organization, Mike and Tracie discussed how she’s used Salesforce to improve communication for their employees and customers alike while increasing effectiveness by creating an all-encompassing ecosystem of collaboration with many of its different products.
Read on for discussion highlights or view the captioned recording here.
How have you become such a power user of Salesforce, both yourself and at ATS?
Prior to ATS, I was a consultant on and off with them and I knew they had some IT challenges. For instance, before I came on board they had implemented a pretty old school client server ERP, and they had about 100 sales reps out in the field that didn’t have access to it. With that knowledge, and having been working fulltime as a Salesforce consultant before coming on board at ATS, I knew Salesforce would be big for them. We started implementing with Sales Cloud first in about 2017.
How do you think Salesforce has helped your company grow and scale in ways it wouldn’t have otherwise?
A lot of different reasons. Like I said, our ERP is a pretty old school service. Not only do our sales reps not have access to it but it’s really hard to customize. We were using spreadsheets and forms and all of these things outside of our system simply because we didn’t have another way. Salesforce has been really valuable for us in a lot of different departments now and has become an extension of our core processes, not just a CRM. It’s been huge for us. We had no collaboration in any of the software we had before Salesforce so it lets our departments collaborate with each other and gives us a lot more accuracy and a lot more accountability while bridging that gap for our sales team, our ERP, and other users who didn’t have a way to communicate with each other.
What was your catalyst for implementing Community Cloud and why is it so important now?
Our initial catalyst was to give our customers a way to access their information, view and edit their account profiles, view their past orders, and pay for invoices online. We actually were stepping back a bit when we implemented our original ERP before I was at ATS because we used to have a customer portal. They haven’t had that for a few years now, so the IT team and the marketing team have been working hand in hand really trying to drive this. And while the pandemic has thrown a lot of curveballs, it’s done one positive thing for us. We were already planning on implementing our customer community this year but our sales team wasn’t totally sold on it. They thought that our customers didn’t want or need to have that kind of self-service element and what we found when we were forcing our customers to call and place orders ahead of time for safety reasons, was that they loved it. So now we have some more internal champions who realize how important it is. And we do have a lot of customers in a lot of different regions, so for our sales reps to be able to give customers things that they need and to give them the ability to do things without having to do a site visit, or even make a phone call, is huge.
How are you taking advantage of FSL (Field Service Lightning)?
Talk about spreadsheets! Our entire sports turf services team was operating on Google Sheets and our only communication with our techs out in the field was that we knew they left the warehouse in the morning and maybe they would call us at night and let us know how the job went.
So we implemented Field Service two years ago, which was great because now we know where our team is, we can move things around and be flexible if we need to, and we communicate with our customers a lot better. Actually, 10K helped us customize Field Service so we really had no idea from a business standpoint what our different services were costing us from a labor perspective because we weren’t tracking it very well. So it’s been helpful to know exactly how many hours we’re spending on jobs, and how much it’s really costing us to do the different kinds of work that we do.
You guys are taking advantage of Salesforce a lot more than other companies your scale and size. What advice might you give to other companies looking to invest in Salesforce and some of the clouds that you’re using as well?
First, I would say not to be scared of that. Utilize experts in the beginning and not just for basic implementation but to really look at what products you might need, and what level of license you might need. We’re a small IT team and we have a lot of different clouds and all these different things we’re supporting and yet I think we’re saving money because we really figured out, with the help of experts, what level of license our different users need. Some of our users are on partner communities, some are on full Sales Cloud. We have a full variety, and again, we’re a small team so it’s important to lean on experts to help with that, but it’s absolutely possible and valuable and I wouldn’t look back on how we’re doing it now.
How did you come to first work with 10K and why did you like/decide to go with the on-demand contract model rather than the larger traditional firm?
I knew Mike through Appirio. After I learned about 10K’s model and knowing 10K has experts around the country in all these different specialties, those things are important for us. And as a small IT team, we rely on our partners really heavily but we need a partner that can be more agile and flexible and do small things if we just need a little more bandwidth, with some small Salesforce projects for instance. But then we also need someone who can do things like our FSL project, and have experts available that are technical architects and can design solutions. Those are big projects we could never take on internally so having that spectrum and all with one company is huge for us.
Upwork research states that 47% of hired managers are now more likely to engage independent talent in the future due to the COVID-19 crisis. What do you think took them so long?
I know for sure, especially at ATS, people get comfortable in the way they do things and they don’t always like to think outside the box. I think this year more than ever has shown us that the old way is not always the best way. I think if we learn anything from all of this is the need to be flexible. So for me as an IT leader, I need to give my team that, and not just them, but all of our employees – the ability to work remotely, to be flexible, and to still be able to be effective. I think this year has put that under a microscope really. And then, I think it’s important to have flexibility with your partners, too. Obviously, with a model like 10K, we know that location is not going to be a factor, that you’re able to react quickly, and you can have the experts you need no matter where they are. I think that’s more and more important every day. And I think, again as an IT leader, I think the talent is going to expect that flexibility, so it’s important from all angles.
You also use Partner Community. Can you talk about what that implementation has looked like for you?
So we have another company that is a partner of ours who we wanted to be able to have some of our sales information shared with, as they are out there doing demos and sometimes our reps are doing demos of their equipment, and we need that collaboration. So 10K actually helped us implement a partner community so we can share information and it’s been awesome. I think that just shows the power of Salesforce. It didn’t take long, and now they have full Sales Cloud licenses and we’re still able to help them and support them from a technical standpoint and still keep them separate.
QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: As a small IT team, how were you able to make the case to your leadership that using Salesforce for so many parts of the business made sense?
The great thing about Salesforce is that you don’t take a great big bite all at once. So being able to add things on later has really helped us sell that, because if I had just gone to them at the beginning and said “Hey, we’re gonna get 200 licenses,” I don’t think that would’ve flown. But because the model works that way, that’s been how we’ve been able to sell it. And honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it all at once, as I can’t imagine we would have been able to. So, having added things in bits and pieces and not all in one chunk helped us sell it and it helped us manage it ourselves.
How has adoption been affected by that rollout process?
We don’t have an entirely tech-savvy group of employees, and it’s just the way that it is. Not everyone likes change – we were nervous about some of our specific users in some of our departments and how they might adopt it, but honestly, it’s been great. I think it’s because we were able to do things in smaller increments. Maybe start out with one thing, get them really comfortable with that, and then we would add on things. And sometimes now we’ll add on three things. Especially, since we’re split evenly between sales and operations, our operations team has been awesome and receptive to what we’re doing in Salesforce and I think being able to roll that out in bits helped with that.
QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: Follow up on the specific types of communities, is it one community with different licenses for a partner/employee/customer, or is it one URL, or did you use an out-of-the-box template? Can you talk about the different communities you’ve set up, how they’re different, and if you used a template or a custom UI?
Basically, our partner community is totally separate so it has its own set of partner licenses and its own URL.
For our customer community, we also use those licenses for our internal community, but we do have a template we used to start with and then we customized it so our customer community is all based on a template. We didn’t do the work internally so I can’t tell you what template it was but now it has its own separate URL, though on the backend we’re using the same community licenses for our internal community, too. They’re the community plus licenses, which, what’s cool about that is if we do want to add on e-commerce, which we plan to do, is that we’ll be able to do that with those licenses, and then it gives them the ability to do reports and dashboards.
The employee community is separate and was originally set up for our daily health checks. And we’ll just continue to add onto that because it’s working really well for the people who didn’t have Salesforce licenses.
QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: Can you talk about how a small team like yours supports such an advanced Salesforce implementation? What does your team structure look like and when do you decide to use partners?
We only have four people on our IT team, and it’s not super clean but two of us are more network hardware customer support base and two of us are the software and Salesforce side of things. In fact, we both do have Salesforce certifications, so we typically do a lot internally, especially custom fields, small changes, and even workflow. If we’re doing something on the change management side of things, that’s impacting a whole department and changing the way they might do things, that’s when we’ll to see if we should use a partner. Then I wouldn’t even know where to begin making customizations among all those clouds or in Field Service Lightning. So we definitely outsource that part of it, and internally we’ll do reports and admin (and my developer has done a lot of cool stuff on his own), but ultimately we’re all wearing so many hats that we can’t simply do it all ourselves. There’s no magic recipe for when we decide to do it out of house but it’s nice to have that option.
What does your ratio of employees to admin look like?
We have 250 employees but about 200 of them have Salesforce licenses of some level and we do only have two people working in Salesforce in the back end. The rest of our IT team does some things in Salesforce to help people out but we really only have two admins for those 200 users.
Ultimately, I don’t know if we are unique or not, but if you’re a small company or midsize company, don’t be afraid of using something like Salesforce and really exploring what’s in the ecosystem because I would never look back. I think we are saving money because we’re not getting 800 different things, we’re all in Salesforce and able to collaborate and to have all those important workflows, approval processes, and everything in one place and with different levels of access. To be able to be a small company and support people in a lot of different divisions is incredible.